Sunday, September 19, 2021

D-Town Brass: “Golden Belt” (2013) Vinyl Review

D-Town Brass is a big band jazz ensemble that doesn’t play traditional big band jazz tunes, or even sound like they have any interest in playing them. Instead, these musicians use those instruments to create their own style, their own sound, taking their listeners to all sorts of exciting and unexpected places, and mixing in elements from other musical realms. The group is made up of Andy Magowan on keyboards, Bob Wall on bass, Robert Biggers on drums, Brendan Love on percussion, Ken Moshesh on percussion, Matt Vooris on percussion and xylophone, Steve Carter on vibraphone, Bob Pence on baritone saxophone and alto saxophone, Ben Riseling on tenor saxophone and clarinet, Matt Busch on tenor saxophone, Steve Cowles on baritone saxophone, Andy Shull on trumpet, Jeff Herrick on trumpet, Hank Pellerin on trombone, and Rob Mossefin on trombone. In 2013, this group released Golden Belt, an album of original material that is available on vinyl.

Side One

The album opens with “Escape Hatch,” a tune that establishes a delicious groove, one element at a time. Then in come the horns, and things get exciting. This track sounds like the score to a fantastic but unseen 1960s gem, a movie we want to exist, something with gorgeous gals and intrigue. Perhaps this is our hero’s theme as he drinks and quips and fights his way through the rather loose plot. Hell, I want to write the film, just to put this music in it, to put the music where it needs to be. That’s followed by “Slippery Monkeys,” which also begins with percussion, but a different sort of rhythm, giving us the sense of a jungle setting. The horns are playful during that opening section, delivering brief, even tentative thoughts and observations, as we are brought into this world. Then suddenly there is a magnificent burst of color and energy, and we are in it now. There is a great deal of fun to this track, particularly toward the end when it gets even more lively.

As “Slideways” opens, it seems to be sneaking about, and taking us along on its adventure. I love the percussion on this track, and that section where the percussion dominates is one of my favorite parts. There is something dramatic about this track as well, making me wonder if these musicians are film buffs. An oft quoted line from Heraclitus tells us we can never step into the same river twice. Well, here the band offers “Same River Once,” as honest a song title as one could imagine. This river is no calm stream, nothing to drift down on a lazy sunny afternoon. No, this river is alive with activity. You get the sense of other people in there, perhaps below the surface, and likely up to no good. Yeah, there is magic in there too, but it’s not yours to control. Watch your footing. There is a fifth, unlisted track on this side, “No Lock, No Key.” This is the only track on the record to feature vocals. “No lock, no key/No key, no lock/Open the door, open the door/Open the door, open the door.” And soon things get pretty wild.

Side Two

The second side opens with “Camberwell Carrot.” A cool rhythm and style transports us to a place where we can be loose with our own sense of ourselves, and maybe live, at least for a short period, in some alternate, dream version of ourselves that is created in part by the music itself. Who doesn’t have, at times, spectacular visions of themselves, how they wish to be seen? Well, here that vision manifests. Just be careful to return before the track ends, or ribbons of self may be lost to this other realm. That’s followed by “The Hectic Metric,” and right from the start, this one is about movement, motion, and at a hurried pace. Not just individuals, but crowds are in motion, the world at large moving about. There is even a tribal sense to it, particularly in that section with hand claps. And I love that work on saxophone. This is an exciting piece.

We are taken to a smoother, softer spot at the beginning of “A Close Call.” This one too has a strong sense of place, this band being able to create vibrant settings and transport us there with ease. Once we are there, the group allows things to get more intense, and at a certain point we suddenly find ourselves on the run. From what, we’re not sure, but it is imperative we keep moving, and fast. Again, there is a cinematic sense here, and a delicious intensity to the playing. The album then ends with “Zombie Rag.” There may be a slight hesitancy at the start, but soon we burst onto the dance floor. This is at a club where the doors may be bolted to prevent escape, but we don’t care, just as long as the rhythm continues, and the liquor flows. As long as the night lasts, and there is the sense that might be forever. During the dance, some of us – or perhaps all of us – pass over to the other side, but hardly anyone takes notice. Things are too good for such trivial concerns.

Record Track List

Side One

  1. Escape Hatch
  2. Slippery Monkeys
  3. Slideways
  4. Same River Once
  5. No Lock, No Key

Side Two

  1. Camberwell Carrot
  2. The Hectic Metric
  3. A Close Call
  4. Zombie Rag

Golden Belt was released on May 18, 2013.

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